My approach to campaigning

Over the last decade I have sought to support people around the world to campaign for change. These 12 questions, the foundation of all my work and my approach to campaigning, are what I think you need to be able to answer before you can start campaigning. I hope that these questions can help your campaigning. If you are interested to know more about my approach to campaigning, there is a list of my resources below or do contact me.

Key questions:

1. What is campaigning and why is it important to you?

For me, campaigning is very simple: it is all about having a problem that you haven’t got the power to address; having a solution; knowing who has the power to make this change; and then seeking to influence them. Having a common understanding of campaigning and knowing why it is important to you is such a vital foundation for campaigning.

2. What is your problem? But why is it a problem?

You then need to be clear on your problem and why this is a priority issue. But you also need to explore why your problem actually exists – what is the real cause? Asking the ‘but why?’ question here is another vital building block.

3. Is there a common understanding of your external environment?

So often ignored by campaigners, but this is another vital building block. Don’t just assume that you all share the same understanding of your external environment. Have an explicit conversation. Test your assumptions. And then keep this external assessment under regular review as your learning expands as you campaign.

4. What evidence have you got or do you need?

Evidence of your problem (and of the impact of your solution) can be fuel for your campaign. But wary: it can be a massive excuse for delay. Rapid and revealing research combining both macro (numbers) and micro (human stories) can be a vibrant energiser for your campaign.

5. Do you pass the TEA test with your solution?

Does your campaign touch (stir the soul or gain interest in the problem), enthuse (with how change will help), and get action? Make sure your campaign message passes the TEA test.

6. Can you do the elevator pitch?

Imagine that you step into an elevator, and the one person you have been waiting months to speak to steps into that very same elevator! How do you use the next 15-30 seconds? Can you develop an elevator pitch that will pass the TEA test? This sounds so simple but requires so much practice – so that you are always ready!

7. How credible are you and what are the risks?

As your campaign develops momentum, you may well find yourself attacked and often on the grounds of your credibility to speak out. Make sure from the outset you are clear on what makes you credible to speak out. Also face up to your risks. List them, assess their likelihood and impact, and discuss how you can reduce such risks. And include a risk register in your campaign plan.

8. Do you know who your target is and how to reach them?

Who is the person with the power to make the change you wany to see? Can you approach them directly? What do you know about them and what/ who influences them? What are the different routes you can use to reach your target, and who are the most effective messengers for your campaign?

9. How are you using opposition to help you?

Opposition is like gold dust for a campaigner. Opposition messages are what are holding your campaign back. Do you know what they are? And then what are your most effective responses. Campaigners are often guilty of using the messages that motivate them, and not the most effective responses to build new support.

10. Have you got a theory of change?

So, you have your message, your evidence, your target and your messengers. But how is change going to happen? What is your theory of change or future story, grounded in your understanding of your outside world (so it’s not a fantasy campaign), which shows the stages that will bring about change? Remember, no battle plan ever survives the first contact with the enemy, so keep your plan under regular review.

11. Have you got a plan for success?

What are you going to do when your target agrees with your campaign message? Campaigners often don’t think about their next steps, and are often caught off guard (as has happened with me!). Make sure that you have a plan for dealing with success.

12. When are you next going to review progress?

So, you’ve answered all of these questions and you are ready to start campaigning. Great! But remember how vital it is to schedule regular review meetings with your team. No matter how busy you get in your campaign, make sure you have time to stop, review your actions, reflect on your learning, make changes to your future story and then press on! I hope my approach to campaigning helps you.


My resources to help your campaigning:

Campaigning for Change: an Essential Guide to Campaigning Around the World – developing the 12 key questions (2017)
Speaking with Impact: an Essential Guide to Public Speaking (2020)

Video courses
What is campaigning? A free introductory course (2017)
Campaigning for Change – the video companion guide to the book (2017)

Audio course
Campaigning for Change – an updated and revised audio version of the book (free for the first 7 days) (2020)

Free written and video resources on my website